Sep 22, 2021 - News

More Iowa men are skipping college

Percent of Iowans enrolled in college within one year of high school graduation
Recreated from Iowa Department of Education; Chart: Axios Visuals

Iowa men have historically enrolled in college at lower rates than women, but the education gap is widening, state data shows.

Why it matters: Men who choose to not pursue a college degree could face career and wage stagnation in the future, according to Iowa College Aid.

By the numbers: The number of male Iowa high school graduates who immediately enrolled in college dropped 7 percentage points between 2012 and 2019 (64.5% to 57.3%), according to Iowa Postsecondary Readiness Reports.

  • The number of women who immediately enrolled after graduating high school dropped by only 3 percentage points — 74% in 2012 vs. 71.3% in 2019.

Filings for the 2020-21 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, aka FAFSA, suggest the gap continued in the pandemic.

  • 41% of Iowa men filed for FAFSA for that school year, in comparison to 57% of women. Student aid is often an early indicator of whether someone intends to attend college.

The big picture: Enrollment in undergraduate and graduate programs has been trending downward nationwide for nearly 10 years, according to National Student Clearinghouse Research Center data.

What they're saying: Men are more likely recruited to work right out of high school, especially in agricultural or trade jobs, said Meghan Oster of Iowa College Aid.

  • While men may work in a trade and earn $40,000-$50,000 right out of high school, those salaries stagnate for workers without degrees, Oster said.

Between the lines: Studies have shown mentoring is a helpful push for men considering college, but those relationships suffered due to the pandemic.

  • Plus, there are heightened concerns about college debt, particularly for low-income men and among Black and Latino communities.

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